Everyone knows that the essential ingredient for a children's work is that it should be unacceptable to adults, which is why the publisher of Harry Potter ensured that the books were condemned by the Pope and why the chief use of film censorship categories is to tell children what to try to see on the sly.
Full marks for the BFI for trying, however. Film is as much part of culture as books and plays and should be taken seriously. Any list like theirs that includes Robert Mitchum's terrifying performance as a murderous preacher in The Night of the Hunter and Lukas Moodysson's film of lesbianism and adolescence, Show Me Love (originally titled Fucking Amal but renamed for the Anglo-Saxon markets) is nothing if not courageous.
The danger here is to make a list by adults of films about children, such as Truffaut's Les Quatre Cents Coups or De Sica's Bicycle Thief rather than "for children". If education about children is what you want, better to go with Vigo's Zero de Conduit, Brooks's Lord of the Flies or Rene Clement's painful masterpiece of war seen through children's eyes, Jeux Interdit.
But surely it is the magic of cinema that children (and adults) need, and for that you should include the great silent comedies of Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd and the anarchic wonder of cartoons. Who can forget the wicked stepmother in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs or the jaw-dropping violence of Japanese manga?
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